The Department of Homeland Security announced a public bid for third party companies to build a “media influence database” capable of tracking more than 290,000 news sources across the globe. First spotted by Bloomberg Law, the public bid would also track journalists and bloggers, compiling their personal information and the publications for which they write.
Posted on April 3rd as a call for “Media Monitoring Services,” the database has a dual purpose: monitoring hundreds of thousands of news sources simultaneously worldwide as well as tracking and categorizing journalists and bloggers. The “Media Intelligence and Benchmarking Platform,” as the proposed database is called, would monitor more than 290,000 “online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry” news sources worldwide. DHS wants the database to rank and categorize news sources according to a variety of factors, including content and topics covered, reach, circulation and location, and sentiment.
Perhaps even more chilling given the current media climate, the platform would also feature a database filled with the personal and social media data of “journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, [and] bloggers,” searchable by location, beat, publication, and ad-hoc keywords.
It’s not at all unheard of for the PR wings of big companies to keep lists of journalists, both friendly and unfriendly, on hand—but not at this scale. Of course, the FBI has a long history of tracking journalists, but many questions remain: Will the journalists on the list be notified they’ve been added? Do they have any control over what data is added about them? The bid’s language, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant,” seems to imply journalists will have profiles with a variety of information. Does that open the door to connect this info with any other data DHS can get its hands on: job histories, criminal histories, a list of phobias, etc?
President Trump has used his Twitter account to lash out at individual journalists before. The implication of a stridently anti-press administration with a database of journalists is troubling, yet, given the surveillance power of the American government, feels almost inevitable.
No value for the bid has been disclosed. Responses are due April 13th.